Cutting Out Caffeine To Improve My Decision Making

I love tea and I love coffee, but I realized I had to cut it out to improve my ability to prioritize.

I did not start drinking caffeine until I was 32 years old. My wife and I went to London and we did a formal afternoon tea in a garden and I was hooked. Over the following six years, I gradually drank more and more caffeine.

The last two years, I began competitively cycling on Zwift and everyone I know on the platform uses caffeine as a performance enhancing drug. Caffeine is a very powerful stimulant and it seems to be nearly required to be able to hold your heart rate and watts output near their maximum for an hour long race.

I began to notice that caffeine had some deleterious side effects on me. I often would have a cup of coffee and think of an idea that seemed fantastic and would go off pursuing it. I write down a lot of my goals and often these caffeinated pursuits would not be in line with those. I had a hard time focusing on what was truly most important to me: spending time with my family and setting them up for long term success. Instead, I would be building a shed I didn’t really need or wasting time looking at news on my phone.

Before I started drinking caffeine in my thirties, my mood was pretty much stable all the time. Not a lot of highs or lows. I usually felt pretty good and was able to focus and get things done without overdoing it. I never really understood it when people would talk about frequent depressions or inability to focus. Once I started to drink caffeine, my moods started to swing quite a bit more between highs and lows. Caffeine has a strong effect on me, so the highs and lows were fairly dramatic.

I also started to sleep less, which I attributed to getting older. But it turns out that on average just one cup of coffee a day will reduce your sleep by 34 minutes each night. Each additional cup averages another 16 minutes of lost sleep.

28 days ago, I decided to completely cut out caffeine. How has it gone?

My decision making and ability to prioritize are far better. While drinking caffeine, I tended to prioritize whatever popped into my head. This lack of focus led to much lower productivity on things that actually mattered.

My cycling performance has gone down. I had reached absolute peak fitness right before I made this decision, but also had noticed some risky possible injuries coming like my hamstring felt sore in one spot for weeks. Right before I quit caffeine, I was having two cups of coffee before my big races and then doing all out effort through the race as well as additional training after. But on off days, I would be basically catatonic. Nothing felt good and I had no energy and was not productive at other things I wanted to do.

I think I may be reducing my wasted time on my phone on social media and news… the jury is still out on this one though.

My moods are much more stable. I feel pretty decent to good most all of the time. I haven’t had any depressed days where I sit in bed and don’t do much. I think I might be less of an interesting conversation partner for my friends though.

I think caffeine helped me empathize with people more, I have noticed that I have a bit less patience with others and less interest in dealing with their issues.

Getting to sleep has been easier. On my race days with two cups of coffee, I had a hard time napping and frequently would stay up an hour or two past when I wanted to go to bed.

Overall, I believe going caffeine free is the right decision. My productivity is way up from reducing wasted time chasing random ideas and from not having any bouts of depression. My sleep is better, which will help my long term health. Even though I am cycling less, I am guessing it is more of a healthy form of exercise now. Eliminating the manic – depressive cycle is nice.

I will see how it goes from here and report back if my assessment changes.

Published by

Joel Gross

Joel Gross is the CEO of Coalition Technologies.